Three soldiers were killed and another was injured when two AH-64 Apache helicopters collided Thursday as they were flying back from a military training flight near Healy, Alaska, US Army officials said.
Two of the soldiers died at the scene and a third died while being transported to a hospital, according to a release from the US Army’s 11th Airborne Division.
The US Army on Saturday released the identities of those killed in the crash: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Robert Eramo, 39, of Oneonta, New York; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle D. McKenna, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart Duane Wayment, 32, of North Logan, Utah.
The fourth soldier was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and was listed in stable condition, according to a Saturday statement from the US Army.
The crash occurred about 100 miles south of Fort Wainwright, where the helicopters are based as part of the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment.
“This is an incredible loss for these soldiers’ families, their fellow soldiers, and for the division,” Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division, said in the release. “Our hearts and prayers go out to their families, friends and loved ones, and we are making the full resources of the Army available to support them.”
The deadly collision comes less than a month after nine soldiers were killed when two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a nighttime training mission near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the Army said. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
“The Fort Wainwright community is one of the tightest military communities I’ve seen in my 32 years of service. I have no doubt they will pull together during this exceptional time of need and provide comfort to our families of our fallen,” Eifler added.
Fort Wainwright’s Emergency Assistance Center is available to “provide support for families, friends and fellow soldiers of those involved in the crash,” the release said.
The crash will be investigated by an Army Combat Readiness Center team, the release said.
On Friday evening, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville ordered a safety stand down, the Army said in a statement.
“The move grounds all Army aviators, except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training,” the Army said.
Army pilots “will focus on safety and training protocols to ensure our pilots and crews have the knowledge, training and awareness to safely complete their assigned mission,” according to the statement.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took to Twitter earlier Friday to send “thoughts and prayers” to the soldiers involved in the incident.
“My heart breaks for the family of the 3 soldiers who were killed. We pray for the injured soldier to be treated and return home safely,” he wrote.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated where the crash happened. It was near Healy, Alaska.